Outrage is growing in Paterson, as new records obtained by the I-Team seem to show even more overtime billed by city employees while they were doing private jobs for the mayor.
Over the last two months, the I-Team has released exclusive video showing Paterson workers doing private jobs for Mayor Jose "Joey" Torres, both at his home and at his nephew’s beer business on East 15th Street, while charging overtime to taxpayers. In some cases, the workers were in uniform. And in some cases, they arrived in city vehicles.
Now, new time sheets seem to show at least three more instances of employees doing private work for the mayor at his nephew’s business while on the clock for the city.
On March 24, 2015, Department of Public Works employee Tim Hanlon is seen on video working at the warehouse after 6 p.m., drinking from a bottle and carrying a ladder. But Hanlon’s time sheets for that day show that he billed six hours of overtime that day, from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.
On that same day, DPW Supervisor Joseph Mania is seen on video talking to the mayor at the warehouse around 6:15 p.m., even though his time sheets appear to show he billed taxpayers for five hours of work that day, from about 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Two days later, city carpenter Jorge Makdissi is seen on video loading equipment onto a truck at about 4:30 p.m. Records show he billed taxpayers for about six hours of work at that same time, from about 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.
The videos also show Torres at the site repeatedly arriving in his city-issued suburban. At times he is seen walking around the site with various workers. Once, he is seen delivering what appears to be beer to workers at the site.
On Friday, a spokeswoman for Mayor Torres referred the I-Team to the city’s lawyer. Domenick Stampone, Paterson’s corporation counsel, said city officials are “aware of” the state attorney general’s investigation into the matter and they have complied with all requests for information. He said he could not comment further because of the ongoing investigation.
The workers shown in the videos have not responded to repeated requests for comment about the newest videos by the I-Team.
Meanwhile, Paterson City Council members expressed concern about the widening probe.
“It’s very disturbing,” said Maritza Davila, a Paterson councilwoman who chairs the Department of Public Works Committee. Referring to the I-Team report, she said, "A lot of people were looking at something that doesn’t look right."
When the I-Team met with Hanlon in March, he told the I-Team he never billed taxpayers overtime for side projects. Asked about his work at the warehouse, he said he did the work for free as a chance to spend time with the city’s mayor and share some beers with colleagues. He has not returned calls from the I-Team in recent days.
After the I-Team’s initial report in March, the New Jersey attorney general’s office announced it would investigate. At the time, Torres denied that he had ever asked city workers to do personal jobs for him while they were on the clock.
In a Paterson Press newspaper report about the I-Team’s story, Torres told the newspaper that in one case, one or two city employees worked at his property to build four bookshelves in his daughter’s bedroom in the past year. He said the job was done on the employees’ own time, and that he paid for the supplies and gave the employees $50 for the work.
Former FBI official J.J. Klaver said the behavior documented on tape and in city records appears to be improper.
“If you’re the mayor of a city and you’re using public employees for your personal benefit, or to benefit your friends, your neighbors, your business associates, that could potentially be charged as a federal crime,” Klaver said.
On Friday, Viomedes Miaaya, who volunteered on Torres’s campaign some years ago, said he is troubled by the allegations.
"In Paterson, the taxes are raising like crazy, and people are tired of the situation happening in Paterson," Miaaya said.
Questions about the employees seen at the mayor’s home come amid a budget crisis in Paterson. At recent City Council meetings, angry residents have complained about rising taxes and failing city services. The City Council finally passed a budget this spring after an earlier budget rejection forced employees to stay home for a day without pay, and closed Paterson’s libraries, senior services and after-school recreation programs.